From April 2022 the Home Office has moved to using telephone reporting, as an alternative to in-person appointments at reporting centres. This follows on from changes implemented on an emergency basis during the pandemic lockdown and sustained lobbying by our campaign!
Yumna Kamel has written an explainer on the Right to Remain legal updates blog:
What is immigration bail?
If you have been in immigration detention, you can apply for release by “immigration bail”.
The conditions of release on bail are usually a specified address, perhaps having financial condition supporters and – before the Home Office’s most recent decision – a requirement to report regularly at a police station or reporting centre. Sometimes people are released on condition of being fitted with an electronic tagging device.
What is telephone reporting?
Instead of attending a Home Office reporting centre, individuals subject to telephone reporting will be given a time slot during which they are expected to wait for one phone call from the Home Office. There will still be some in-person reporting, but after that most of it will be done by telephone.
The main benefit of telephone reporting is that migrants do not have to spend time and money travelling to Home Office reporting centres. It might also be less stressful than attending reporting centres in-person.
In-person reporting can be an extremely stressful process. People often travel for hours to report without any financial assistance. Some people are made to wait for hours in outdoor queues, even if they have disabilities, and are often treated disrespectfully by Home Office staff. There have been cases of people being made to report as often as every day. Many individuals are also interviewed during reporting events or detained and even removed.
Even at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, when the official government guidance was to isolate, the Home Office continued to ask migrants to report in-person, putting them at risk of catching the virus.
However, telephone reporting is not without flaws. Getting and maintaining a phone can be a challenge for people with limited financial means – topping it up with enough credit is expensive. Having to wait for one phone call at an unconfirmed time can also cause stress or anxiety.
Not everyone on immigration bail will be given a telephone appointment slot – some people will still have to report in-person. If you are selected for telephone reporting, the Home Office will notify you of the decision by email, text message, or post.
Brian Dikoff and Jennifer Blair have also written for the the Free Movement blog. They write:
The upside for those given the new telephone reporting condition is that they do not have to travel on expensive and time-consuming journeys. It avoids the stress and anxiety caused by wasting time on “very brief exchanges that did not allow for meaningful interactions” (Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration 2021 inspection of reporting at Becket House).
The downside is that there is an element of unpredictability with telephone reporting. People who often have very limited financial resources will be at the mercy of digital technology they may struggle to afford. People without legal status may struggle to afford reliable mobile phones, to access indoor phone charging points or private spaces with good phone signal. Some people prefer the certainty of in-person contacts.
The other downside is people could be given a very wide window where they are expected to wait for a single phone call. If an unreasonably long window is given then we recommend that people complain.